Mel Gibsonâs award-winning Braveheart marks 25th
Braveheart was the story of Scottish rebel leader William Wallace that took place from 1280 to 1314. Mel Gibson admitted the story was not authentic, heavily fictitious and changes were executed for dramatic purposes. Some scenes were a bit romanticized to make them ‘cinematic
Mel Gibson’s award-winning Braveheart marks 25th
Leah C. Salterio (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2020 - 12:00am

“Mel Gibson proves he can direct.”

That was the frontpage story on every broadsheet locally — and certainly worldwide — the day after actor-director Mel Gibson proudly accepted his Oscar Best Picture and Best Director trophies for the historical, 13th-century war film, Braveheart, 25 years ago.

Braveheart made history at the 68th Academy Awards when it gloriously earned a total of five trophies, including Best Cinematography, Best Make-up and Best Sound Effects Editing. However, none among Braveheart’s actors was nominated in the acting category, not even Mel.

Nineteen ninety-five was a very tough and competitive year at the Oscars. For Best Picture, Braveheart competed against Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, Michael Radford’s Il Postino, The Postman, Chris Noonan’s Babe and Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility.

For Best Director, Mel slayed the other nominees — Tim Robbins for Dead Man Walking, Mike Figgis for Leaving Las Vegas, Chris Noonan for Babe and Michael Radford for Il Postino, The Postman.

There were important winners in acting categories, like Nicolas Cage as Best Actor in Leaving Las Vegas, Susan Sarandon as Best Actress in Dead Man Walking, Kevin Spacey as Best Supporting Actor in Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects and Mira Sorvino as Best Supporting Actress in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite.

Braveheart was the story of Scottish rebel leader William Wallace that took place from 1280 to 1314. Mel admitted the story was not authentic, heavily fictitious and changes were executed for dramatic purposes. Some scenes were a bit romanticized to make them “cinematic.”

William was reportedly only in his late 20s when he died, so Mel initially turned down the part when it was first offered to him, as he was already pushing 40 at that time. Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, Christopher Lambert, Jeff Bridges and even Robin Williams were also considered to play William.

When Mel was still undecided to do Braveheart, he eyed actors Jason Patric and even Brad Pitt to step into the role. However, Paramount wouldn’t take no for an answer. A year later, Mel gave his nod to play the lead role and even agreed to direct and co-produce Braveheart. He even had a hand in casting.

Mel initially buried himself into watching old films, to prepare himself to work at the helm and star in Braveheart. He watched Roman Polanski’s Macbeth (1971), Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960), Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight (1965), Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), Anthony Harvey’s The Lion in Winter (1968), Fred Zinnemann’s A Man for All Seasons (1966) and Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938).

Admittedly, Mel borrowed directorial techniques and atmospheric shots, even ideas, from director Peter Weir, who handled him in Gallipoli (1981) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).

Braveheart took more than a hundred days to film — 105 to be exact — with most of the scenes shot on location in Ireland. Mel earlier declared the film was more arduous and taxing than shooting three Lethal Weapon starrers in a row. Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon was his cop action film with Danny Glover. A fourth installment was shown in 1998.

Although William was actually shot in the throat when he died, Braveheart opted to behead William, instead, in the film. Then, he dramatically screamed, “Freedom,” one of the best-remembered ending scenes. Braveheart had a budget of $70M. Yet, the film raked in more than $200M at the tills.

Several major battle scenes had to be reshot in Braveheart because when the rushes were being previewed, the extras were caught wearing sunglasses and wristwatches, supposedly non-existent yet in that era. Two hours and 58 minutes of the film made it to the theaters.

Close to 1,600 extras were utilized for the battle scenes. Mel was partly criticized when Braveheart came out. He insisted, however, that he offered the viewers a “cinematic experience” for Braveheart.

Warrior extras were paid $300 per week and regularly worked 14 hours a day. There were men hanging in harness all day while filming.

Braveheart made it to Steven Schneider’s 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Braveheart was not Mel’s directorial debut. In 1993, he worked at the helm of Man Without A Face, where he also starred in. However, the latter film was not a box-office success, even if it gained critical acclaim for its star and director.

After Braveheart, Mel made a string of successful directorial jobs, including The Passion of the Christ (2004), Apocalypto (2006) and Hacksaw Ridge (2016).

MEL GIBSON
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